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97 Outback, valve job or short block?


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6 replies to this topic

#1 karnofsky

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Posted 12 May 2004 - 09:40 AM

Hello, I'm a long time Suburu owner, my wife bought a 97 Outback from a dealer a couple or three years ago with about 70,000 miles. They replaced numerous gaskets at about 95,000 as part of a warrantee they had sold us. Six months ago with about 120,000 the head gasket blew. The dealer replaced both head gaskets and the clutch for about $1400. The check engine light never went off. The dealer told us to drive it for a while and it should go off. We brought it in and they decided it needed a coil and wires. The check engine light remained on. They told us it needed a valve job. All this time the car was running fine and we didn't really trust them after the obviously unneccesary coil replacement ($250). At this point (4 months later) the car is running poorly. The dealer tells us that the valve job will cost $1600 plus whatever machining will be necessary, which they won't even guesstimate. I'm fed up with the dealer, and spoke with the mechanic at a nearby independent used Suburu shop and garage, who told me that he would do a new short block and valve job for around $2200. He said that the engine is likely to burn more oil after the dealer valve job because of the increase in compression, so he wouldn't recommend that. The car is in otherwise good well maintained condition, with the exception of a fussy rear door latch.

Any advice?, should we write off our losses and get out of what I'm discovering is problematic engine, go ahead with the dealer recommended valve job (and run the risk of burning oil out the old rings), or go with the new block and valve job from the independent mechanic (who many people, though not all, are happy with).

It seems customary on the list to list the Suburus owned. I honestly can't remember them all, but my first was a brand new silver 79 DL 4wd SW, which I ran into the ground, put almost 200k on with only brake work and a new exhaust system. Since then it's been used ones that I buy for 2-5,000, drive for a few years, and then sell to college kids for a thousand or so. My wife's car is the first we spent so much on ($13,000) and by far has been the worst experience. Thanks for any thoughts on this situation.

#2 99obw

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Posted 12 May 2004 - 09:58 AM

I would go for the short block and valve job, or just make it simple and buy a long block. Most folks here prefer CCR.

What most likely happened is they didn't adjust the valves when the head gaskets were done and the exhaust valves are burnt. The dealer sounds incompetent. They should never send you on your way telling you that the MIL will go out by itself. They should identify the problem, fix it, then clear the code.

I would probably have a compression or leakdown test done before I replaced anything. If the compression is good I would have the valves adjusted and fix whatever is causing the MIL and the poor performance.

#3 karnofsky

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Posted 12 May 2004 - 05:50 PM

Thanks for the response, my wife went to pick up the car at the dealer and had a meeting with the owner to let him know why we wouldn't be back. He's offered to refund us the coil job, which he acknowledges was unnecessary. Does anyone have an opinion on the suggestion that the engine (currently about 135,000 miles) might start burning oil after the valve job because of the increased compression?

#4 cookie

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Posted 12 May 2004 - 06:01 PM

is showing wear on the rings, pistons, and cylinder walls. When you do a valve job you are freshening up the top of the engine without helping the half tired bottom end.
Of course it is going to burn some oil soon.
These 2.5s aren't the engine the old 2.2s were.
If I had that particular car I would either change the whole engine or sell the car.

#5 Chip Hedrick

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Posted 12 May 2004 - 08:53 PM

I agree with 99obw. I wouldn't invest $1600.00 plus into the existing engine which has 135,000 mi, especially since it has had a history of problems. You'd still be stuck with the old short block and old rings, bearings, etc. It sounds like the particular engine in your car is a lemon.

If the transmission and the rest of the car is in good shape either have the independent tech rebuilt the heads on a new short block, as mentioned, or check the prices on a rebuilt engine from www.ccrengines.com. A rebuilt engine would probably buy you another 100,000+ mi out of the car.

If the tranny and the rest of the car isn't in good shape, I'd cut my losses and unload it fast.

Also, maybe I'm missing something, but why would an increase in compression after a valve job cause an engine to burn more oil??

#6 Nug

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Posted 12 May 2004 - 10:03 PM

I'm gonna go against the grain here. I believe that the valvejob+old rings=oil consumption theory hardly applies to newer engines. With that out of the way, you should have the engine leakdown tested to isolate any problem with the base engine. If the leakdown test shows valve leakage, then I would have a valve job done.

#7 cookie

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Posted 13 May 2004 - 12:26 AM

I would say a valve job and do the rest of the engine later. I used to live up in Maine myself and 30 years ago it was hard to find a good mechanic, and it does not sound any easier.
This is a true tale of woe and mechanical incompetance.
He might have half a chance if he fitted a whole CCRNC engine new, hoses, radiator, and new sensors.
If he uses the same folks they will probably fit the engine upside down and charge him $8,000.




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